BIPPS on NKy’s airwaves: Join us Friday @ 7:30 a.m. on 55KRC

Bluegrass Institute president Jim Waters will be on Cincinnati’s 55KRC The Morning Show with guest-host Kevin Gordon on Wednesday at 7:30 a.m. (eastern)

Waters will talk about the Institute’s #right2work4ky campaign, which includes a new docu-video telling the real stories of people who need the kind of manufacturing employment opportunities that a right-to-work law would bring to Kentucky.

Listen in live here.

Media Alert: Southern Ky. couple stars in Institute’s new right-to-work video; scorecard tallies who’s for, against right-to-work policy

0(JAMESTOWN, Ky.) — Fruit of the Loom’s announcement in April that it would close its only remaining Kentucky plant in Jamestown by the end of the year was a devastating blow to this community.

“It hit hard,” said Russell Springs resident Claude Morrison, who’s worked at Fruit of the Loom for 30 years – during many of which he had perfect attendance.

Morrison and his wife, Terry, who, despite a master’s degree and extensive work experience, has taken a job two hours from home that pays little more than minimum wage, tell their story in a new video released today by the Bluegrass Institute promoting a right-to-work policy for Kentucky.

Watch the video here. Follow the institute’s right-to-work campaign on the Bluegrass Institute Policy Blog, Facebook site and in Twittersphere @bipps #right2work4ky

The Institute also released a Legislative Scorecard indicating which lawmakers sponsored, supported and opposed right-to-work legislation filed and voted on in the House Committee on Labor and Industry during the 2014 session of the Kentucky General Assembly.

“This is our home and this is where we want to stay; and we do have a right to work,” Terry Morrison said. “And I sincerely hope that our government and legislators will let our voices be heard because we deserve to be heard because we do want to work.”

A right-to-work law simply protects the rights of individual workers to choose to join or not to join a labor union without losing their jobs. Twenty-four states, including neighboring Indiana, Tennessee and Virginia, have right-to-work laws.

According to the National Institute for Labor Relations Research, real manufacturing GDP grew by 87 percent from 2002 to 2012 in the 22 states with right-to-work laws during that decade but fell by 2 percent in states without right-to-work policies.

“The Morrison’s story – and thousands of stories like theirs from around Kentucky – highlights the urgent need for the Kentucky legislature to pass right-to-work during the 2015 legislative session,” Bluegrass Institute president Jim Waters said. “It’s one great thing our state could do that we know would attract the manufacturing job opportunities and allow the Morrisons and many other hardworking Kentuckians to find a good job and remain in the community they call ‘home.’”

For more information, contact Jim Waters at or (270) 320-4376. 

Fayette County schools admit achievement gaps have been growing

Most white-black math and reading gaps are up statewide, as well


According to comments in an October 28, 2014 Herald-Leader article, “Fayette school board approves recommendations to eliminate achievement gap,” the Fayette County Public School District’s newest Equity Scorecard showed, “…the achievement gap had widened, with lower numbers of distinguished and proficient students on the state’s K-Prep tests for all groups. Most of the gaps were larger than in previous years”.

That is some rather direct candor. Blacks are being left behind in Lexington.

We could use some similar candor from Frankfort. You see, the gap problem is statewide.

I broke out the 2013 and 2014 KPREP math and reading proficiency rates for Kentucky’s white and black students by school level. The following table shows that in most cases, the achievement gaps grew statewide in that period. Specifically, the white minus black achievement gaps grew in elementary schools in both reading and math and in middle school math and high school reading.

White Minus Black P Rates on KPREP 2013 and 2014

There was some slight improvement in the middle school reading and high school math gaps, but those improvements were small. Even after that slight improvement, the table shows that in 2014 in both middle school reading and high school math the black proficiency rates are scarcely more than half the rates for whites.

The Herald-Leader says Fayette County is launching still more attempts to deal with the gaps. However, the unfortunate truth is that we have heard similar promises ever since the Kentucky Education Reform Act of 1990 was passed. It is now nearly a quarter of a century later, and the gaps remain large and mostly are not improving.

In the interests of really improving equity, it clearly is time for Kentucky to engage in some out of the box thinking on gaps, thinking that moves beyond the traditional public school mindsets. One example of that out-of-the-box thinking is to improve school choice in Kentucky with such options as public charter schools. We need those options, and we need them in more places than Louisville. The new Equity Report from Fayette County and the unhappy statewide gap information from KPREP testing prove it.

Principal fired for activities surrounding testing

WDRB reports that former Louisville Male High School principal David Mike has now been fired for “conduct unbecoming of a teacher” by the Jefferson County Public School system. The firing relates to Mike’s failure to “create a proper testing environment and that he told a teacher to destroy documents.”

The inappropriate activity is related to ACT COMPASS testing at Male High. Mike failed to maintain proper testing conditions for this test, which is used for Unbridled Learning school accountability in Kentucky. The possible impact on Male High’s overall Unbridled Learning results is unknown.

This sad story isn’t over, however. Mike has a 10-day period where he can appeal the dismissal to the Kentucky Department of Education. Also, Mike and two other Male staff members still face possible action from the Kentucky Educational Professional Standards Board (EPSB). The EPSB process is mostly secret, but several years ago the board did take certificate action against school staff members in Perry County who were involved with inappropriate testing activities on the ACT college entrance test.

The sad news here is that Mike, who held one of the most desirable and well paid high school principal positions in the state, evidently failed to live up to the standards expected of such leaders.

The good news is that the system might finally be starting to change. The era of education’s excessive protection of its own, even when serious miss performance is involved, may be coming to a close.

Right-to-work offers Kentuckians promise of a ‘hand up’ rather than a government ‘handout’

0Policy is not just about the numbers, the data or the lofty ideals. Good and bad policies both have real impact on real people.

Without a right-to-work policy, the Bluegrass State lack the opportunities real Kentuckians need — and that residents in key neighboring states already have — to deal with economic downturns, manufacturing plant closures and regulatory fiats from Washington attempting to put our coal industry out of business.

Plants are going to close. “Creative destruction” happens. The question is: What is Kentucky doing to open the doors to opportunities that help our state and its citizens to prosper and grow — even through those transitions?

Some people think the answers lies in more government handouts and mandates on private-sector businesses, including raising the minimum wage. But Terry Morrison, a Russell County resident whose family has been hit hard by the announcement that Fruit of the Loom is closing its Jamestown plant, says a right-to-work policy would provide the kind of “hand up” most Kentuckians want rather than just another “handout.”

Terry and her husband, Claude share more of their story in the Bluegrass Institute’s new right-to-work video released Monday.

This video is part of the Bluegrass Institute’s #right2work4ky campaign. Please watch the video and then link to it on your social media sites.




Rally for charter schools in Louisville


There was considerable media attention when residents of Louisville rallied yesterday for charter schools. Clearly, pressure is growing for better school choices in Kentucky.

Here is WAVE-3’s coverage: News, Weather

Bluegrass Beacon…Right-to-work: The right message for Kentucky’s governor

BluegrassBeaconLogoThe 3,748 manufacturers that have stayed in Kentucky and employ 228,600 workers – despite a less-than-friendly business atmosphere – deserve all of the accolades Frankfort can muster, including Gov. Steve Beshear’s decree that October is “Manufacturing Month in the Commonwealth.”

Perhaps this could be followed by “Political Courage Month” in November, during which the governor digs his bully pulpit out of storage, dusts it off and places a reminder on it to “pound here in favor of right-to-work for Kentucky.”

He would have the support of manufacturers, who strongly endorse a right-to-work policy for Kentucky because they can see – and compare – what’s happening in states with and without them.

However, Beshear once said in an interview highlighted by Southern Business and Development magazine that those site selectors who claim that a lack of a right-to-work law is an obstacle to Kentucky’s economic growth have the wrong “perception.”

“There’s a perception issue among some companies that it is a problem,” Beshear said. “Our job is to break through that perception. We deal with site selectors every day and we are developing close relationships with those site selector companies, and as we do that it gives us the opportunity to really show them the facts about Kentucky.”

Based on his tepid concern about right-to-work, which attracts manufacturers because it allows individual workers to make their own choices regarding labor-union membership, certain “facts” likely are missing from Beshear’s talking points.

It’s a pretty good bet that data by the Bureau of Economic Analysis showing that growth in real manufacturing GDP in the decade ending in 2010 was more than 17 percent in right-to-work states, 9 percent in states without a right-to-work law and even worse – a paltry 4 percent – in Kentucky isn’t included in the governor’s presentation.

The “facts” are that neighboring states to the South with right-to-work laws like Tennessee, with its 5,790 manufacturers, attract companies like Hankook Tire – one of the world’s fastest-growing tire makers – which broke ground this month on an $800 million facility that will employ 1,800 people in Clarksville.

The “facts” are that site selectors like James Medbery of the Binswanger Company says that many  companies cross Kentucky off their list “without giving it another thought” because we lack a right-to-work law.

This past spring, I ran into Louisville mayor Greg Fischer in a small café in his city’s West End where he told me that the right-to-work issue is nothing but “political noise.”

Companies “don’t even bring right-to-work up” when considering the River City for expansion or relocation, Fischer said.

Why should companies fight it when they can cross the Ohio River to a business-friendly state with more than twice as many manufacturers?

Indiana also has the River Ridge Commerce Center, which became home to the new Amazon Fulfillment Center just 44 days after Indiana became a right-to-work state. The Amazon facility employs 5,500 employees – including 3,000 seasonal workers – in a 1 million square-foot facility on 70 acres less than 15 minutes from Fischer’s office.

Since then-Gov. Mitch Daniels signed Indiana’s right-to-work law on Feb. 1, 2012, there have been several closings on deals at the River Ridge property leading to the employment of 8,505 workers with such high-profile companies like The Standard Register Co. and Fuji Seal Inc.

Louisville Business First reporter Marty Finley toured River Ridge and reported that Paul Wheatley, its director of marketing and finance, believes the center “could employ 20,000 people in the future,” and that development will “explode” once new bridges being built connect Indiana, a right-to-work state, with its non-right-to-work neighbor to the South.

If that happens, it means that a single development in southern Indiana just across the river from Kentucky’s largest city will employ the equivalent of nearly 10 percent of the Bluegrass State’s entire manufacturing workforce.

Watch out for heavy traffic if you happen to head northbound on those bridges.

Jim Waters is president of the Bluegrass Institute, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Reach him at Read previously published columns at

#right2work4ky today on Lexington’s WVLK @ 590 AM and 101.5 FM

Join Bluegrass Institute president Jim Waters as he talks about the #right2work4ky campaign — including a new video released today – on Kruser and Krew at 2:05 p.m. today on Lexington’s WVLK-AM.

Listen live here.

Help the Bluegrass Institute continue to advance freedom and prosperity by promoting free‐market capitalism, smaller government, and the defense of personal liberties. Join us!




Education Trust: Kentucky’s school assessments hide achievement gap problems

Education Trust gets it right about achievement gaps. Their new report, “Making Sure All Children Matter: Getting School Accountability Signals Right,” says:

“Even the strongest critics of No Child Left Behind will acknowledge that the law did one thing right — create an expectation that in order to be considered successful, a school had to be successfully educating all groups of students.”

However, that expectation was cast aside when the US Department of Education started to issue waivers from No Child. EdTrust points out:

“In issuing waivers from that law, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan allowed states to walk away from that framework. To obtain a waiver, he required states to set improvement goals for each group of students that would result in gap narrowing. But, in a move that had civil rights advocates shaking their heads, performance against those goals did not have to matter at all in school accountability ratings.”

To bolster their claim, the new EdTrust report examines recent assessment and accountability evidence from three states – Kentucky is one of them. EdTrust reports:

“What we’ve found is that school ratings are not powerful signals of the performance of every individual group of kids. In each state, schools are getting top ratings despite low performance for some groups.”

In this EdTrust graphic, we see that performance of African-Americans in Kentucky’s top performing schools is actually worse than white performance in Kentucky’s very lowest performing schools.

EdTrust KY Table from Making Sure All Children Matter

This makes EdTrust’s concerns very clear. Note that the African American proficiency rate for math in Kentucky’s “Distinguished” rated schools is 35 percent, which is three points lower than the white proficiency rate in Kentucky’s “Needs Improvement” schools. As EdTrust puts it:

“A Distinguished rating tells us something very different about the performance of African American students than it does about the performance of white students.”

Yes, unfortunately, that is true. A school’s whites might post a Distinguished performance while its African American students actually are doing something far less impressive.

[Read more...]

It’s a Free-Market Friday with BIPPS on the Joe Elliott Show on Louisville’s 970 WGTK-AM

Bluegrass Institute President Jim Waters joins talk show host Joe Elliott for a Free-Market Friday tomorrow at @ 10 a.m. (EDT) on Louisville’s 970 WGTK-AM.

Topics will include school choice and the Bluegrass Institute’s #right2work4ky campaign.

Listen live here. Then, if you like what you hear and you think it’s important for Kentucky, help keep the Bluegrass Institute in the winning column and on the airwaves by contributing here.